My family of three left Colorado two weeks ago to spend the holidays in the motherland (for those of you who don’t know me, that’s New Jersey) and then headed to Finland this past Wednesday. Before flying to Jyväskylä we had some time in Helsinki’s airport. Lou, my two-year-old, was having a blast pushing the airport-provided stroller around (no, it was not a luggage cart although those were available, for free, as well) when he wandered into a gift shop attracted by some images of white hippopotamuses on a book. I paused to let him look when another American mother, with her slightly older preschooler said, “She is so excited to finally see some Moomin stuff because she has been reading the books ahead of our trip!”
Hours later when we arrived in Jyväskylä my Fulbright “buddy” Simo and his daughter Herta arrived with a crib and bedding for Lou I was stunned to see two quilts with different Moomin scenes all over them.
So what exactly is a Moomin you ask? Despite all my nerdiness in life, I had never heard of Moomin (and let’s pause because should I be saying the plural of Moomin as “Moomin” as I would “deer” and “deer” or do I simply add an “s” as in “We need more Moomins in this apartment so my two-year-old can get on board with his new Finnish friends?”… and yes, I already alluded to the fact that I am a big nerd) so I did what anyone does in 2016 and googled it.
Wikipedia explains that Moomins are fairy tale characters that look a lot like white hippopotamuses who are in a series of books and comics by Tove Jansson, a Finnish author. But, read further and learn that Moomins are not only the stars of reading material but also TV shows, movies and an amusement park. My capitalist brain makes the instant assumption that this must be the equivalent of Mickey & Minnie, all the Disney movies known to humankind and Disneyworld and the like but then I pause. I have been in Finland a mere 24 hours so don’t want to assume anything. I did, however, take the floral quilt off the bed in Lou’s room and put one with Moomins on it instead.